Proctor’s 2,500 acres of woodlands are a sacred place for anyone who has called Proctor home. This land is deeply rooted in the school’s mission to provide a holistic education that fosters a love for the outdoors and a sense of responsibility towards the environment. The Woodlands are our largest classroom – they allow students the opportunity to study ecology, forestry, and environmental science in a living, breathing laboratory. They, along with Proctor's outdoor science teachers, have taught generations of students lessons about life, our planet, and our interconnectedness that reach far beyond a traditional classroom.
Pictures tell you things that written history never will or perhaps can. On my wall in my office just behind my left shoulder is a photograph taken in 1895. It is of the Proctor and Carr families of Andover, NH. During the opening weeks of school, I spoke at great length to our community about members of this family, but John Proctor is the person from whom we as a school get our name. When the picture was taken, John Proctor was gone from the scene for 12 years, he died in 1883, but his extended family and relatives were alive and well represented in Andover. What Proctor planted, the regenerated seeds and start of a new school, still stands today. Vibrant and prosperous.
If you spend enough time in the New England woods, you will run across old stone walls bisecting a dense forest. Follow those walls and you will likely find an old cellar hole that will immediately transport you back in time to a different era when Proctor’s 2,500 acres were clear cut pastures sprinkled with farms of hardworking families scraping a living off the rocky soil.
In just over a month, Proctor’s 120 new students will head into the wilderness of the New Hampshire’s White Mountains for five days of backpacking, camping, and exploring. The experience that awaits them - the vastness of the wilderness, the challenges of hiking high peaks, and the relationships forged with classmates and faculty leaders - will lay the foundation for their Proctor journey.
Human connection requires two parties to willingly step into relationship with one another. Nature, however, is always waiting with open arms. As we consider how we might better walk alongside each other as humans, we must spend time in nature to refocus and reframe how we live. Today, as a community, we stepped into nature’s embrace by celebrating Earth Day 2022.
Since the 1940s, Proctor students and faculty have spent time together managing Proctor's land. Originally set up as a "Campus Improvement Squad", Proctor's Woods Team has evolved over the years alongside the acreage (now 2,500) the school stewards. Each fall and spring, a hearty group of students join faculty in the maintenance of trails, splitting of fire wood, maple sugaring, and diving into any other task needed at the time.
The Proctor Woodlands Center is a project that has been three years in the making. Through the support of generous donors who understand Proctor's deep connection to the natural world and surrounding woodlands, this building will transform the life sciences at Proctor. With an estimated completion of July 2022, the Proctor Woodlands Center will be open for science classes starting next fall.
Recently, the Proctor Woodlands Research Team (Proctor’s latest evolution of academic and afternoon program work) and I traveled up to a point on their trail map - marked E7. We also traversed over to D7, and C7 - as the crow flies. To look at the flattened representation of that area on that map, those pins were actually a series of bright orange stakes in the ground set at regular intervals marking the spots from which the group would do their work. To be precise, E7 is indicated on the map in the Proctor Woodlands that stretches due northwest from the Woodlands Office.